Carpe Diem

Saturday, May 26th; 11:59pm Interlaken, Switzerland – “Carpe Diem” is a phrase by which I try to live. The phrase was coined by the popular Roman poet Horace in his Odes collection and is of Latin origin. Translated it means “seize the day!” I try to live out this phrase every day because if I can seize/take advantage of every single day, all 86,400 seconds of it, then I believe that I will have a wonderful, fulfilling life. Well today, I carped the heck out of this diem. I find it rather ironic that I began this blog post at 11:59pm because I truly wanted to squeeze every last moment out of this day, and oh what a day it was! I checked some items off my bucket list and grew much closer to my friends and to God.

Although today was jam packed with wonderful adventures, the real adventure began yesterday morning on the train ride form Munich to Interlaken. Dr. Pitcock was so excited because we were scheduled to have one of the easiest travel days ever to Interlaken, only one stop, which means much less stress for Dr. P for there are fewer instances for us to screw up getting on or off the train, but as the great John Steinbeck once said, “The best laid plans of Dr. P often go awry,” and awry they went. Our first train was late, and when we got on the second train, we were informed that it was not taking us directly to Interlaken as planned. Instead, we would need to make two more train switches before we got there, a travelling nightmare for Dr. P. And of course, all of this occurred right after I told Dr. P that he should be more relaxed and more “go with the flow more” during the experience. Not the best timing on my part… :/ Sorry Dr. P! You handled the situation with the utmost poise, and I think you went with the flow very well. I apologize for what I said, and I thank you for getting us to Interlaken, and everyone else safe and sound and honestly just being the absolute best in leading and guiding us on this experience. You have truly done so much for us, more than we will ever know, and I greatly thank you for allowing us to have this once in a lifetime experience. (So that we can see incredible views like these)

Interlaken 1

Interlaken Sunset

Anyways, we finally made it to the hotel safe and sound when the madness began again…

We were informed that we were having a free day in Interlaken!!! YAY!

I was so excited! Everyone was scrambling to make a plan for the next day, trying to find something fun that we could all do together. Although Dr. P strongly suggested that we not participate in any extreme sports and fully informed us of the risks we were taking, I decided to do the two of the most extreme activities I could find: canyoning and skydiving! Because one does not simply “hang out” when you’re in the extreme sports capital of the world! Anyways, despite being Pre-Med, my marketing and salesmanship skills kicked in as I tried to convince as many people as possibly to join in my crazy endeavors, and I did so with great success! (If you want to know more about how I did this convincing, check out my friend Ryal’s blog about the positive effects of peer pressure.)

When everyone finally figured out their plan, we gave our ideas to the wonderful Kim who was working at the front desk and prayed for an absolute miracle: that the places we wished to go would be open, have enough room for us, and that the weather would hold up. Luckily for us, the stars aligned, and Kim was able to work some magic and get all 16 of us booked for the various activities that we wanted to do.

The next morning, I woke up at 7:30am ready for the most amazing day of my life, and it did not fall short but rather exceeded even the loftiest of my expectations! When I say I carped the heck out of this diem, I mean it. I went canyoning in the morning which was an amazing experience because we had a bunch of people doing it all together, and I didn’t really know what canyoning was until I did it so that was a really interesting experience as well. The reason I signed up and convinced others to go canyoning was because past members of CR had told me that it was a blast and a great time to bond with the group. I truly blindly took their advice and really didn’t do any research on what canyoning actually was before I went and actually did it. It was rather exciting though, going into it without knowing exactly what was going to happen. I really had to trust in the other members of my group to keep me going and make sure we all got through it together and alive. Although it was quite intimidating at first, with the help of our amazing guides our whole group made it through canyoning without a scratch, well maybe a few scratches (sorry Taylor).

Here is a picture of our awesome canyoning group! Please ignore my hand and face, but do enjoy the nicknames on the helmets if you can read them!

canyoning group

canyoning

We finished canyoning and ate a nice little café across the street. We laughed about all the fun we had, and the fact that we were going to be jumping out of a plane in a matter of hours finally began to set in. We hung out for a while and when it was time to leave for skydiving the nervous excitement in the lobby was overwhelming with all of us there together. The skydiving place picked us up, and we sang “Live like you are Dying” the entire way to the skydiving zone. At one point we did stop singing, but the lady driving the van told us not to stop but keep singing instead. When we arrived at the skydiving zone, the lady driving the van said, “Well congratulations, you have just made it past the most dangerous part of your skydiving experience.” This was really reassuring for me because I knew that we were more likely to die driving to the skydiving place than actually skydiving. We hung out for a while and took some great photos, some of which you can see below, but eventually our time came.

pre-skidiving solo pic.jpeg

pre-skydiving solo pic.jpeg

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frogs by 13,000ft

serious skydivers.jpeg

I was in the second of the two groups to go, so it was amazing to see all of my friends make it safely before I went. However, after they were done, it was my time to go. The man who eventually saved my life, Tom, walked towards me after carefully packing up the parachute and said, “Hi, I’m Tom! Are you ready to go?” I was like “Heck yeah!” Then he said, “Great because we are going first!”

“What? We’re going first, did you say?” I stuttered to say to him. “Yeah, is that a problem?” he said in reply. “No, that’s cool, sweet, no big deal!” I said very hesitantly. We were the last to climb aboard the little puddle jumper, and we packed in like sardines so that all 12 of us could fit. Tom and I were right next to the open door. As we started down the runaway, my dear Tom informed me that the plane door was broken, and that we would just have to go the whole ride with it wide open. “Just kidding,” he said after an uncomfortably long pause. This was only the beginning of many unsettling jokes that our tandem partners played on us on the way up. Interesting enough, skydiving instructors genuinely enjoy scaring the absolute bejeezees out of people who are about to jump out of a plane. Luckily, I was excited to go, so it wasn’t too unsettling for me, but for someone who was really nervous, they could really do some damage with their jokes.

When the guides weren’t joking about how their partner left an important hook unbuckled or arguing over who would get whose car if they died, they would point out the amazing view from the sky or take pre-jump videos of us. Whenever the final video comes in, I’ll be sure to post it.

Anyways, we finally got to our peak altitude of 13,500ft. Tom yelled in my ear, “Open the door.” Although I knew that I was going to have to do it, there is nothing than can prepare you for opening a door and dangling your feet over the edge of a moving plane. I know that it should have hit me before this, but it truly wasn’t until I looked down out of the open door that I realized I was about to jump out a plane and plummet towards the earth for the next 45 seconds. And what a blissful 45 seconds it was. Tome started us off with a causal backflip, and then we free-fell arms wide until he unloaded the parachute that saved our lives. Maybe it’s because I’m not the best with words, but I’ve found it extremely difficult to describe the sensation of skydiving. It is like nothing you’ve ever felt or experienced before, and there is nothing you can do to physically prepare yourself for it. It is truly just one of the most action packed, adrenaline-filled moments of your entire life, while at the same time being one of the most blissful moment of your entire life. There is something about free-falling towards the earth that makes you gain a greater appreciation for life.

Although I absolutely loved skydiving, I don’t think I can ever do it again because I don’t think I will ever find a more beautiful place to skydive than surrounded by the Swiss Alps. It was the most amazing experience because once the shoot came up and we began paragliding down to the ground, I looked around and was just completely surrounded by God’s beautiful creation. It was truly a surreal experience.

I don’t think I will ever have a more action-packed and exciting day in my entire life, and until I get married or have a child, whenever someone asks me what the best day of my life was, I now have a very clear answer! May 26th, 2018 – Interlaken, Switzerland

Group Selfie

All thanks to CR10!

Carpe Diem

 

Until next time,

Jake Lynn

 

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Hitler Went to Heaven

 

Friday, May 25th; 12:39pm Dachau, Germany – Hitler went to Heaven, and I’ll tell you why. Now I know that this is a very controversial statement, and I understand that some people may be upset or offended by this statement. I, however, am fully prepared to defend my claim. I understand that I may be entirely wrong, and I do not want to perpetuate the idea that this is the full truth and that everyone must believe what I do. This is merely an analysis of the unlikely revelation I had in the Carmelite Chapel on the grounds of the Dachau Concentration Camp in Dachau, Germany.

Dachau Entrance

Dachau Gate

To begin, the feeling that I felt walking through the cold, dark iron gates of the camp was something that I cannot put in to words, but a feeling that I hope I never forget. My first thought as I walked in was, this place is huge; however, as I learned throughout the museum, the concentration camp was severely overcrowded and held about 5x its mass capacity of around 6,000 people. When we visited, it looked empty. I couldn’t imagine the place full. I couldn’t imagine the feelings and emotions of thousands and thousands of hopeless people. I couldn’t image the stench of death that constantly consumed the camp.

Dachau

For someone who never shuts up, I was speechless. I walked around the barren, lonely remnants of the concentration camp for 3 hours in complete and utter silence. Like many others on the experience my mind was flooded with feelings, emotions, but most of all questions. Leaving Dachau, I still have about a thousand questions that remain unanswered as to how this event actually occurred, how they kept it a secret for so long, and how to stop this sort of atrocity from happening in the future. Over the pass week, we have learned every detail about how Hitler came to power, and how exactly he kept it a secret from the entire world. Despite knowing every logistical detail of the operation, it is still baffling that there was little to no resistance to it, and the voices of those who did resist were silenced so tactfully and so efficiently that no one from the outside world was exposed to the utter tragedy that was taking place. Also, from the inside, how did the S.S. soldiers who worked the camps come home to their families, eat dinner, and sleep well at night knowing that they killed hundreds of innocent people every single day? How did an entire country of people dehumanize and entire “race” of people simply because of their religion?

And there is the kicker. As soon as I began to think about religion, I spotted the small Carmelite Chapel and thought, “Well if I have some questions about religion, there is no one better to ask than the big Man upstairs Himself.” So, I strolled into the small, simple chapel and knelt down in the back pew to talk to God and ask Him a couple of the thousands of questions I had. This is where things got a little sticky, but I had an incredible revelation in my personal faith that I did not expect to have at Dachau of all places. I believe that Hitler went to Heaven. I came to this conclusion by asking God how He could let millions of His people die such merciless deaths, where He was during this time of great need, and what the point of it all was? I wondered what the ramifications of the event were religiously, and what was in store for those involved in the afterlife. I knew that since the Jews had suffered greatly during their time on earth because of their faith in God, that they would be eternally rewarded by a reunion with God in Heaven and a life of eternal happiness and joy. On the other hand, I wondered what the fate would be of those who horribly persecuted God’s people for their belief in Him and killed millions of His people. What happened to them? Now most believers will tell you that these people went directly to Hell and that there is no way to reconcile their souls from eternal damnation. I on the other hand have a different opinion.

As most do times of confusion with faith, I turned to the Bible for answers. In the Bible, I searched for a times when God’s people were subject to great persecution and death. One notable example of this is the worst and greatest moment in human history, Jesus’s death on the cross. Jesus and His disciples were persecuted because of their beliefs, and Jesus was sentenced to the worst, most painful death imaginable by His own people because of it. Among Jesus’ last breaths were the words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” In Jesus’ last moments on earth, He asked His Father for forgiveness and mercy on His people. The greatest atrocity ever committed by humankind, murdering our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, was the very source of our salvation. In regard to salvation, I believe that Jesus dying on the cross brought salvation for ALL people. During Pentecost, the disciples were blessed with the Holy Spirit. I believe that all people have the Holy Spirit inside of them, and therefore everyone has God inside of them. Genesis 1:27 says that all people are created in the image and likeness of God. Because of this all people are innately good, however, many people don’t act like it. Adam and Eve brought sin and death into the world, but they were still forgiven by God and went to Heaven. Jesus, Himself asked God to forgive those who murdered Him, God’s only Son. One verse that people love to use to say that only those who believe in Jesus will go to Heaven is John 14:6 which says, “No one can get to the Father except through me.” I think that this verse is often misinterpreted in a sense that Jesus is not saying that you need to believe in Him to be saved, but rather through His death and resurrection, He will grant salvation to ALL PEOPLE. All people, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or religion. Jesus does NOT discriminate. No one can lose the Holy Spirit from inside of them, no one can lose the salvation that Jesus granted them, and no one can do something so atrocious that it is unforgivable by God: not even bringing sin and death into the world, murdering His only Son, or murdering 6 million of His innocent people. This is how I came to one of the most unlikely realizations in Dachau: God forgave Hitler.

As for what the point of religion or being a good person is, I personally believe that organized religion is for fulfilment and not salvation. Jesus provided salvation for us by dying and the cross, and no matter how much we sin, we cannot lose the salvation that He won for us. Those, like myself, who participate in organized religion should not be doing so in hopes that it will grant us eternal life: Jesus has already done that for us. Those who participate in organized religion and truly live it out receive the reward of experiencing true, intrinsic happiness on earth and are fulfilled spiritually. Those who do not participate in organized religion may suffer greatly on earth because they will never be truly fulfilled because they are trying to fill a God-sized hole in their heart with material or other earthly things. However, in the end, we will all experience eternal happiness and joy when we are reunited with our Father in Heaven. No matter how much we may stray from our Father, He will never cease to love us, care for us, and call us home. Like how a child can never truly lose the love of their parents, God will never cease to love and forgive us for our transgressions, and therefore we will all be reunited with Him in Heaven. We are One Body, that makes up One Spirit, the Lord Our God.

 

Until Next Time,

Jake Lynn

The Power of One

Saturday, May 19th; 1:00am Berlin, Germany – Amazing! What an incredible experience I’ve had thus far on CR10! We just finished up our third day, and it feels like we’ve been here for a month already! The days are so full, some might even say “rich,” but I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. The things we have seen and the information we have learned has been unbelievably impactful. It has oftentimes left me, the guy who never stops talking, speechless. It’s truly an incredible experience to be in the actual space where so much history has occurred. Berlin as a city does an incredible job confronting its history and presenting an unbiased account of that history very clearly to the public through a myriad of dynamic memorials which spark intentional dialogue and tough conversations among its visitors and onlookers. Many of the memorials and monuments are presented in a way which allows its meaning to be up for interpretation by the visitors, rather than simply “spoon-feeding” the historical facts to them.

One thing that really resonated with me today throughout our journey today was the power of one. In the same way that we as individuals are statistically insignificant in comparison to the global population, each one of us is infinitely significant in a sense that we have an effect on every person we meet and therefore the world would be monumentally different without our presence in it. Now I know that’s a tough one to swallow sometimes, and especially when trying to confront large-scale problems like racism, homophobia, or mass genocide it is extremely difficult to see how one person can have such a considerable influence on the world and those around her or him.

The power of one was extremely evident today when we visited the Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt. This free museum was dedicated to Otto Weidt, a non-Jewish blind man who in 1941 employed around 35 blind and deaf Jews in his broom making shop. He protected these Jews by hiding them in secret rooms in the factory or bribing off the Gestapo if they were caught in their homes or in the streets. He created a network of people in the heart of Berlin who were also brave enough to help these Jews by hiding them in their home or buying them food on the black market. He did everything he could for these people, but unfortunately many of them were captured during “Operation Factory” in February 27th, 1943, when the Nazis declared that every Jew in Berlin should be gone. That day, the Nazis raided thousands of homes in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods and sent them all to concentration camps to be eventually executed. Otto was able to save some of the Jews who were married to German women, but most of his workers were executed in Auschwitz, and his factory was shut down. After the Nazis were defeated, Otto created the Home for Jewish Children and the Aged, the first safe haven for Jews in the post-Nazi Berlin. Many of the children that stayed there were those who had lost their parents in Auschwitz.

Otto is a prime example of the power of one. He was someone who didn’t try to do anything outside himself yet did everything he could to better the lives of these innocent Jewish people and their children. After his death, Otto was awarded the “Righteous Man of the World’s Nations” award. I think that Otto has an extremely powerful story that we can all look to for guidance. I just hope that had I been in that situation, I would’ve been as brave as Otto was in the face of danger and done everything I could for the betterment of the lives of others.

 

Until Next Time,

Jake Lynn

 

*Below is a photo of a trap door that Otto used to hide his workers in a small room for when the Nazis would come and do inspections of his factory

LET’S GOOOOO!!!

Hello friends, I apologize that this post is a little late and will look out of place, but I was having some computer issues. Here is my pre-reflection before the trip:

Wednesday, May 16th; 6:00am Dublin, Ireland – Let’s GOOOO!!! CR10 ARE YOU READY!!! I cannot fully express my excitement through words, so I am going to use lots of capital letters and exclamation points to compensate. Some advice I received from CR alumni was to only write blog posts when you were emotionally fired up, so that is exactly what I am doing! To be honest, it really didn’t hit me that I was travelling to Europe for nearly a month with 15 other amazing students and 2 incredible faculty members until just a few minutes ago in the Dublin airport. Reflecting on freshman year, I truly was so blessed to have such a wonderful year, but CR is truly the pinnacle that will cap off the wildest year of my entire life! I have grown so much throughout my entire freshman year, but CR will truly solidify and magnify that growth while pushing me to grow in new ways as well. CR is going to be one of the greatest yet most challenging experiences of my entire life, and I could not be more EXCITED FOR IT!

My flight over was fantastic! By the luck of the Irish, I had the best row of people on the plane! I ended up between two individuals from Missouri, a math student at Pittsburg State University, Payton, and an 8th grade math teacher who teaches in Carthage, Missouri. On the end of our row was the wise, David, the musician who seemed to have the answers to every question that we had on the flight. Talking with these people truly reminded me why I love people so much! Everyone is so UNIQUE and AMAZING in their own distinct way! This got me so AMPED for CR10 because I just cannot wait to meet and build relationships with people from across the world. I find it fascinating that even when I meet people from a different continent and what seems like a completely different world to me, I always seem to find some interesting similarity that we share. People are so incredible and one of the quotes I recently heard that I have truly tried to live by recently is “Most people aren’t most people. So get to know most people so that you can know most people!” This quote truly fascinates and inspires me to meet and try to make connections with everyone whom I meet because I truly believe that everyone knows something that you don’t, and therefore every time you speak with someone, it is an opportunity to learn something you never would’ve known otherwise.

Aside from all the new and interesting people I will meet along our journey, I am OVERJOYED to have the opportunity to build, develop, and foster genuine loving relationships with the 17 incredible individuals that make up the CR10 experience. Each of these individuals has something very important and unique that they bring to the table, something that our experience would truly lack without their presence. The exciting part is, that I have no idea what that is for each person, but I am eager to find out!

Until next time,

Jake Lynn

Come Again?

March 31, 2018 – Cinque Terre is probably the least known and hardest to pronounce place that we will visit on the experience. To clear up the pronunciation debate, I’m including a video from linguist, scholar, and semi-famous Youtuber Mark Wetzler (*disclaimer* I’m not sure if he is a linguist or a scholar, but he is definitely a semi-famous Youtuber as you can see he has gotten over 8,000 views on this video, at least 20 of which have come from me in the past hour). Another note, he definitely pronounces it wrong the first time he says it, but if you wait for the end, you are in for a real treat!

I hope you enjoyed that! Anyways, Cinque Terre is pronounced “Çinque Tære,” and it means “Five Lands.” Cinque Terre itself is not actually a city, but is rather the region of coastline which encompasses the five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. We will be staying in the coastal town of Riomaggiore. (pictured below)

Cinque Terre day

I think that Cinque Terre may be the most underrated city that we visit on the experience. I believe that Cinque Terre often can get overlooked because all the other places we will visit are all so saturated with art, history, and culture, but also because people view Cinque Terre simply for its beautiful views. Cinque Terre honestly reminds me of Machu Picchu in a sense that the pictures are amazing, but there is a certain feeling of awe that comes with actually being there and taking in the moment with all your senses, a feeling that cannot be captured by a picture or even a thousand words.

Because it is such a difficult thing to describe with words, I challenged past CR members to do exactly that. When I talked with CR alumni about Cinque Terre, one of my favorite questions to ask them was “Describe Cinque Terre in three words.” I believe Michael Drake (CR7 alum) summed it up pretty well with “Stunning, Relaxing, Happy.” I know Cinque Terre will be that and so much more!

Personally, I am truly so excited to go to Cinque Terre because I believe it will be an extremely valuable time to get to really “dig in” to the others on the trip. We will be “over the hump” in a sense, we will be past the half way point. We will have travelled with our group for over two weeks at this point, so I think we will have a pretty decent sense of who everyone really is and what they are about. Cinque Terre will be a great time to solidify these ideas and ask those deeper questions. I want to really understand what the values and beliefs of each individual are, why exactly they hold those values and beliefs, and why they do what they do. Everyone that is going on the trip is so amazing and has a wonderful story behind them. These stories have helped shaped them to become who they are, and I want to challenge myself to uncover these stories so I can have a deepened understanding and a deeper connection with those whom I will be travelling with this summer!

How could I not be excited to learn and grow in Europe with these phenomenal people?

Cookies with Friends

Until next time,

Jake Lynn

It’s Not All Fun & Games

March 28, 2018 – As I sit in my dorm room, I try to evoke the emotions I have had over the last few months in regard to the Cultural Routes experience. Let me tell you, it has been one rollercoaster of emotions. The first week I stepped foot on campus, I met a few young men who had participated on CR9. Their description immediately sparked my interest in the trip, excuse me, experience.

Cultural Routes is everything for which I live. I believe that one of the greatest things that we as humans can do is explore the world around us, and that is exactly what CR does. There is so much to learn, so much to do, and so much to be discovered. Everything in this world can be talked about or taught in a classroom in some way or another, and I do greatly value the learning that occurs in the classroom setting. However, learning that occurs outside the classroom setting with experience stepping in as the professor is exponentially more powerful and memorable than what we learn inside the classroom. There is something about experiencing things for ourselves instead of merely learning about them that cements them in our brains for us to hold onto for a lifetime.

After researching more about the experience, my excitement grew. Ever since I took a trip to Italy with my high school choir the summer after my freshman year, I have been thoroughly enamored with travelling. We live in such a vast world, that contains a myriad of things to be learned and experiences to be had. Once I got a taste of the excitement and adventure of exploration and discovery, I couldn’t help but crave more of this experience.

As I made my way through the fall semester, I met more and more people who had been on the Cultural Routes experience. The people were quite a diverse group, yet I seemingly kept running into more and more people who had been on CR. The more people I met the more excited and nervous I became about the opportunity to apply for CR. Despite their diversity, there were some commonalities that I found among all the past CR members that I met: CR had a unique but distinct and powerful impact on every one of them, each of them is using what he/her learned abroad to influence the work they are doing at TCU, and last but not least, every single person that I met inspired me.

I am unmeasurably excited to go on CR because of the opportunity to grow, learn, and explore Europe with 17 other amazing individuals. I am certain that I will have the experience of a lifetime on this trip. I know that the experiences I have will lead me to not only discover more about the world around me but also more about myself and those with whom I am travelling. I know that CR will challenge me to grow in ways that I cannot yet imagine. I know that CR will be an experience that challenges me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Cultural Routes will be everything but easy. I will need to be ALL IN 24/7, if I want to gain the most out of my experience, so that I too can inspire the next generation of CR students.

Until next time,

Jake Lynn